Last December I was just trying to make it through the holidays without floundering (unsuccessfully, I might add). It had been almost a year since my ex-husband had moved out, and over a year since we decided to separate. I felt stuck, because certain memories seemed to be pulling me backwards even though I thought I was moving on.
So one night after watching the tree light up in NYC from our living room sofa, I decided to book a trip for me and my kids — something I’d been putting off for a while because I was worried it would be a reminder of the way our family used to be.
But in that moment, I felt impulsive and I didn’t think it through. The feeling grabbed me and I went with it.
For so long, the thought of taking a trip with my kids alone, without my ex-husband, scared me. I was afraid it would be hard for all of us. I was afraid it would be a huge reminder of all the trips we used to take, of all the things we used to do, of all the times we ventured out and I had him as my wing-man.
On this trip, I would be alone with my kids. There would be no one driving who knew exactly where we were going as I dozed off. I’d be the one trying to remember to pack everything. I’d gas up the car. I’d find the best route. I’d find things to do around the area. I’d get the toll money. I’d put out fires in the backseat while driving if my kids decided to be assholes.
Me, it was all on me.
All these thoughts that had paralyzed me since my separation and kept me from booking a trip flashed through my mind, but I picked up my phone and started Googling places anyway. The fear wasn’t enough to stop me this time; in fact, it made me move quicker. In less than 5 minutes, I’d booked a weekend at a resort and told the kids we were going to an indoor water park where we were going to have the time of our lives.
I wasn’t sure I believed it. It didn’t matter though; I knew if I was going to keep moving forward — if we were going to keep moving forward — I had to keep making new traditions. And what better time to keep rolling with the new traditions and uncomfortableness than during the most wonderful time of the year when everything felt so off anyway?
If I could do Christmas, I could do this, right?
Some might think doing something like taking your kids on a trip solo after a divorce isn’t a big deal, but it felt huge, not only because it’s a reminder of just how much has changed, but I feared I wouldn’t be able to make it as fun for my kids as the days when their father used to travel with us. And I didn’t know if I could handle that pressure.
But I let it all go because indulging in that kind of thinking was holding me back, and it just wasn’t good enough anymore. On this trip, I was just me, and we were just us. And that was good enough.
Our weekend had meaning and purpose. It wasn’t eventful or epic every single second. During the second night, we just stayed in, ordered room service, and it hit me that for the entire weekend, I did not worry if this trip compared to all the others. Not even once. I was too busy being present.
It didn’t cross my mind once that I may not be as fun as their father. It didn’t feel like it was a bunch of hard work. I didn’t second-guess my plans or decisions. Our weekend was flowing as it should, and it was all we needed it to be.
I looked over at my boys who were happy and content. I felt my daughter breathing next to me after I’d turned out the bedside lamp feeling so amazingly whole it was almost an out of body experience.
Did it make me nostalgic for the times we used to have, and the family we used to be? Yes, of course it did. But it was okay; it didn’t hurt. It was one of those moments when you realize you are content, and you aren’t sure how you made it through, but you did and you don’t feel the need to overthink, or make room for any guilt to seep in and sabotage the fact you came out stronger. It felt like starting over. It felt fresh, and I welcomed that feeling.
I didn’t have a mental take-down with myself, something I’ve become an expert at this past 18 months since we separated. I didn’t sit there and think about what we would be doing if their father was there.
I closed my eyes, and thinking my kiddos were asleep, rolled over on my right side to resume my favorite sleeping position. But in the darkness, my oldest son said, “Mom, I’m surprised at how much fun I had this weekend.”
And that moment was just another reminder we were all going to be okay.
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